The impact of a younger diagnosis

Through my work I occasionally visit primary schools and I recently found myself sitting with an eight-year-old in a particularly rambunctious class who taught me a very interesting lesson. Whilst the class was well organised and the teacher in control, twenty excitable eight-year olds in an extra-curricular class was bound to be a little noisy.

All of a sudden, without any explanation the little girl got up, went to the other side of the room and retrieved some headphones which she put on and returned to our little desk and the task in hand. Obviously as an Aspie I understand why she did what she did so as to mitigate external noise, but it was the way she did it with such natural ease I realised that children today are so lucky to be able to be recognised in such a way where their needs are met.

This caused me to reflect on my own childhood, as an ‘80s child I never had the luxury of any diagnosis of neurodivergence

Whilst a highly sociable child, and as a girl probably masking a lot, when I reflect on my growing up, it was largely down to attending eccentric schools with very small classes which probably saved me from experiencing too many problems associated with neurodiversity. Had the situation been different I may not hold the cherished memories of school as I do. The only negative I can see to nurturing and facilitating for a child on the spectrum at school, as is the case now, is that the grown-up world may be jarringly different where such kindness and understanding may not always be present.

However on balance, I could have avoided some upsetting instances had it be known I was on the spectrum and while my talents were recognised and I was asked If I would like to move up a year so I wasn’t bored, the problems which with hindsight caused me sadness or meltdowns could have been at least mitigated.

This child I sat and worked with, happy in her own little world, especially after the headphones went on, showed me what it looks like to have your needs met in such a healthy easy manner.

I see a future where neurodiversity is as accepted and assisted in a standard and non-alienating way

Yet, is the world of work there yet?

My personal story tells of heartache in the workplace and a lot of isolation. A CV now so eclectic from chopping and changing, running away from jobs which broke me means that my own career stalled some time ago. Armed with my degree fresh out of university I had no obstacles or worries and achieved a lot in a short time. It is only with hindsight I can see mistakes and problems which armed with the knowledge I have now I could have avoided. But couldn’t any neurotypical say that?

Perhaps it is unfair to reflect from this place of knowledge, as I often think pre-diagnosis I just got on with things and never pondered such matters. In many ways not knowing made me more confident and didn’t hold me back. Had I known I was on the Spectrum and had the education system understood that back then would it have been different?  I may have conducted my degree differently and achieved different things but the outcome would largely be the same I think.

We are where we are and it is the workplace which I am concerned with now.

When I think of the totally unsuitable work I undertook given my Aspie brain, it does sadden me, but it is my story and what makes me so there can be no regrets. It is interesting to reflect with modern ideas and my own experiences though what may have been different or improved upon.

Like the small child I met, I now know what I need to mitigate a bad situation, but how easy is it to do this at work?